Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Movie Appraisal: American Mary (2012)

So, this is a Canadian film, right? With Canadian money clearly shown in and throughout the movie? We're on that page with each other right now, correct? I wasn't imagining things while I was dreading going through the entirety of the Children of the Corn movies this month again, was I? Because if I decided to be both coherent watching this film and in my own right mind completely, then something is just a tiny little bit amiss, wouldn't you say?

Okay. If it's true that this movie takes place VERY CLEARLY in Canada, then why is the movie called American Mary? It clearly should be called Canadian Mary. That has a bit less of a ring to it though. I mean, it certainly doesn't sound like a horror film. Maybe they simply meant that she was from the Americas. North America more specifically. North American Mary? Well, now it just seems like it's a movie about finding a person who's been frozen in a glacier in northern Canada for the last thirty thousand years.

I'm focusing on this point too much. I mean, it's a dumb title that doesn't work in the context of the movie. But, I'll leave it alone for now. Instead I'll focus on the movie itself.

This film is mostly pretty decent. While it does have some issues (like how it isn't scary at all, but does have some very good gore effects), it actually does a pretty good job as a story, although I have to admit that it could have used another ten-fifteen minutes of extra exposition or character development.

The bare minimum plot of this movie is that a woman, named HINT HINT Mary is studying to become a surgeon. She's good at surgery but is struggling to pay bills. She applies to a strip club because she's Katherine Isabelle and doesn't look half bad. Instead of getting the stripping job, she helps keep a tortured man alive. This starts her relationship with the medical and surgery underground. She is approached by a woman who has surgical modified her body to resemble Betty Boop. this woman proposes a business arrangement involving taking another woman and removing some of the erogenous zones of her body, including her nipples and labia so she can more resemble a doll. This leads her to making more and more money with the body modification surgeries. This would all be good and fine, but she is drugged and raped at a party that she was invited to by a group of surgeons at the hospital she is now working at. The man who rapes her is the host of the party, her former teacher who had given her a hard time previously. He had thought she was prostituting herself to make money and decided that she was asking for it or somesuch disgusting stretch of human thought. Afterward, Mary is upset for a little while, and rapidly reaches a plot of revenge.
She hires some people from the strip club to kidnap him. And then the movie jumps in time a bit. Mary is now a successful body modification surgeon who keeps the mutilated body of her former teacher and rapist in an underground vault so she can practice the modifications on him before she does them to other people. It is sick in every conceivable way. It definitely begs the question of whether he deserves it or not. Rape seems to be one of the worst crimes in our society besides murder, and because of that, this penalty- while cruel and unusual- does get a rapist and a very awful man off the streets. I mean, there is no way he's raping again.

The second half of the movie, after the time jump, meanders about a bit before eventually focusing on Mary's little bouts of insanity and sadism, her murder of a security guard, and her eventual death at the hands of the husband of the woman she modified at the beginning of the movie (the one she removed labia and nipples from). Throughout this, the strip club owner, Billy, is shown to have a thing for Mary that literally comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere in the end. The movie disappointingly trickles to an end, leaving a movie that had begun as a roaring waterfall to a very mediocre (but memorable) fate.

So, to put it mildly, this movie is extremely graphic with gore and body modifications. There are times when the screen is hard to look at because of this. The Soska sisters outdid themselves with the visuals and the directing style. It is a beautiful if somewhat sterile movie. The first half of the movie is near-brilliant, emotionally charged and full of both character and moments. The second half feels almost gratuitous in its gore and deaths. It just doesn't feel right or seemingly end right. Something about it left me feeling both cold and distant, thinking the movie worse overall than the beginning of the film would have had me think.

This is a good movie, but not a great one. It also happens to be one of the only body mod movies I know about, so there's that. It works well as a horror movie even if it doesn't quite deliver the scares. The gore is most definitely there as well as the moments when I really wanted to look away from the screen. I probably like this movie more than I ought to because of the heavy feminist themes. It's like an MRA (Men's Rights Activists) nightmare, full of a strong woman, revenge from said strong woman, and a real lack of fetishism for men. The mods are all about fulfilling one's own physical wants, The men seem to want a perfect woman in their minds, but the women of the movie seem to want another way, one that involves them being able to love their own bodies and themselves. It's not about men being attracted to the women. It's all about the women changing themselves to be happy with themselves all on their own.

I don't know. I guess I find that theme really touching and very important. Coupled with the disgusting and dehumanizing rape and how most men in this movie are portrayed as sleazebags who only think about one thing, I see this as a very strong feminist film, one that has a ton of value as what it is.

The acting is always good. The filming is great. And while the second half of the movie is much weaker than the first half, it still works. I recommend this film, but not to the weak of heart or stomach. This is a violent, gory, and sometimes absolutely degrading film. It's the kind of movie I could see someone sickened by. While never scary, it instead delivers a message and a lot of thought- also a ton of blood, gore, a body mods.


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